I have an identity crisis. I've been a prolific consumer of philosophy so much that I no longer am able to categorize this information into something cogent or meaningful in my life. The act of studying is much easier than the art of practice where all the nuts and bolts of one's belief system gets worked out. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a Nihilist and am suspicious of such intoxicating claims of one's purpose or meaning. I find it all to be a bit exhausting and intellectually futile. Conversely, I do endorse the concept of a journey or path. In some sense, this is objective in that it is the sum of your collective experience and can be measured for such indicators as happiness, success, or improvement. It's not to say these indicators aren't a bit arbitrary but are adaptable to one's own interpretation. So, to put more concisely, I believe energy invested in the journey is beneficial and energy invested in the "purpose" or "meaning" behind the journey, in an existential sense, is purposeless. This is why I run afoul with religion as its primary reasoning is deductive. How can you deduce knowledge or truth from something that has no experience or reality in the strictest sense of the word. Contrarily, inductive reasoning builds off of what we have experienced, collective or otherwise, and establishes a foundation from which we can build. Inasmuch, it is in this inductive theory that we can prescribe ways to live in accordance to our own values. Religion is also absent with respect to prescribing a way to live in the here and now with the exception of a few ambiguous and outdated guide posts. From this end, my views or attitudes regarding the existence of God have not changed in the most rote sense; however, I'm finding myself less critical with respect to self empowerment.
The concept of self empowerment is clearly not a new idea. It began in Greece over two thousand years ago and evolved into a highly populated isle at Barnes and Noble. The latter is probably why I've openly mocked the self improvement/empowerment movement of recent. It feels more like a marketing drill than a place to identify sacred truths. Clearly this is an extension of my nihilistical disposition. Secretly, however, I've been very attracted to many of these ideas/concepts related to self transformation for quite some time. As a young child I would wake before sunrise to burn a candle in my closet, light some fragrant jasmine, and chant some affirmation I found in a book at the Austin Public Library. I suppose I was trying to connect with the Universe to gain purpose or meaning. Later in my teens I found myself blowing air into some strange, antiquated instrument all while trying my best to memorize Hebrew chants from the Old Testament. Nonetheless, as I aged and grasped onto the foundation of science, I shifted my philosophy to Atheism echoing the writings of Bertrand Russell. It was at this intersection that I stopped pursuing knowledge in a personal sense. It was instead shifted to academics. I left behind the mystical musings of my childhood only to, twenty years later, recognize that both the concept of Atheism and Religion are much opposite sides of the same coin. While I still don't believe in a God, I refuse to label myself as an Atheist any longer because it has no real meaning. It tells nothing of who I am, what I do believe, and entraps my being in yet another deductive paradigm. All that being said, I've realized that real contentment, self transformation and the like come from looking inward. Most religions, in the Western tradition, give lip service to this concept but offer no real tools for deep introspection. So, I thought that left me with Eastern philosophies for which I have a sophomoric understanding. What I missed though, is the many Greek and Roman schools of philosophy which resemble more Eastern traditions but with a little more self righteousness than their Eastern counterparts. So, having examined, at least on the surface, the ideological principles of both Stoicism and Zen, I feel I some tools to begin moving forward again with reshaping my own philosophy.
Now, back to my identity crisis. Of recent, I've started meditating, expressing gratitude, and accepting my thoughts for what they are - thoughts. I have made significant changes over the past several months. All have been positive but as I have turned inward, I've taken note of several areas in my life where I'm simply not living in accordance to my values. This has led to a series of self questioning leading to an uncomfortable and destabilizing emotional state. The little Nihilist in me questions the existence and validity of these values in the first place. So, I began a list of those things important to me and began tracking my time and energy to determine how much of my energy is being wasted on things flippant to my priorities but necessary to sustain the life I've built. As I've build a life intertwined with my many different people, my personal changes appear to segregate me from both my prior self and those around me. It is here where I need more advanced tools to help me with my transformation and to help me find courage to move inward. Unfortunately, I don't know how to access these tools other than trolling down the self-section with an angry and often times witty Nihilist on my shoulder.